The Mystical American
A Rotating Selection of Students' Experiences
(Click on the link above to go directly to the experiences page)

by

Alice Christensen
Founder, American Yoga Association

Several years ago, during one of my annual summer visits to Kashmir to study with the great Lakshmanjoo, I began thinking about the quality of mystical awareness. I thought back over the unbelievable experiences that shaped my life in Yoga, and I remembered the many letters that I have received -- and continue to receive -- from my students describing their own mystical experiences. I thought about how many stories I had heard about people from all walks of life who have had experiences of their deeper nature.

I began to realize that mysticism could be a great help in healing the desert of separateness that keeps people unhappy, unfulfilled, and despairing of finding answers to their deepest questions about the meaning of their lives. Mystical awareness shows a common bond that is the well-spring of love in the human personality.

Mystical awareness blossoms in silence. Americans are generally afraid of silence. Our streets are filled with portable radios, Muzak, and empty expression. Mystic involvement with our own self teaches freedom from the fear of being alone, of being silent, because the friend we seek lies within us like Sleeping Beauty: quietly asleep, waiting to be awakened.

Sometimes I have seen people trying to express or explain some way they feel and the tears flow, seemingly for no reason. They usually becomes so embarrassed that they are unable to go on in conversation. To me, this displays the mystical part of a person crying to express itself from the dark corner where it has been imprisoned.

The mystical side of ourselves has such great strength, and it can give us the balance we need to find, at last, the happiness and success that are so dear to us as Americans. Balancing the known and unknown parts of the personality gives a tremendous sensitivity and depth. The result is, in the finest subtle sense, a oneness with yourself. Loneliness becomes a thing of the past. Silence and deliberate thought become a resting place to refuel and renew yourself. You discover a new feeling of connection to other people as you recognize their mystical qualities as well. Feelings of separateness built on merely the known or physical conscious nature melt away as balance and confidence fill the vast needs of the whole personality.

Perhaps one could say that mysticism is an approach to ultimate maturity. You are no longer a child, needing to be constantly fed from the outside world; instead, you have a strong inner self which nurtures and supports you from within. You can then find the courage to take responsibility for your own life.

I have often wondered why the word "mystic" has been relegated only to the likes of English poets, Greek philosophers, Indian teachers, Chinese writers, or long-since-dead American poets! No one seems to think that a mystic can be a living, breathing human being in today's world. I am a mystic, and it has given meaning to my life. When you come right down to it, a mystic is simply a very ordinary person with a very extraordinary outlook.

My experience in leading the American Yoga Association for over three decades now has convinced me that Americans have a tremendous capacity for mysticism. This mysticism is the missing ingredient in our essential search for truth, and it is the cornerstone for a balanced and productive life. Mysticism provides the answers to our most searching questions.

I have experienced mysticism directly in myself, my students, and the two great teachers I have been blessed to know in my life. Mystical awareness has become my life. By showing you how mysticism has appeared in me and many of my students, I hope to help you realize your own capability for developing this rich source of strength and awareness. I will try to show you, through the remarkable letters I have received over the years from my students, the spectacular changes that can come about in a people’s lives through the development of their mystical qualities.

If you are like a great many Americans (according to some recent polls) you have had some experiences in your life that have made you wonder about things such as God, life and death, happiness, and transcendence. Perhaps this presentation will help you by showing you that you are not alone in discovering this subtle, hidden part of yourself, and that it is possible to develop it to your great benefit.

Far from denying or running away from the American Dream, the people whose mystical experiences are recorded here have found a way to bring it to life in full. It is not just some half dream of "what might have been," but rather a courageous, vibrant commitment to growth. Life has such new meaning under these terms. The stunning dreams, visions, and everyday realizations that these people describe as they mold their lives will, I hope, inspire you to explore your own wondrous inner resources.

If you go deep inside yourself and awaken and provide expression for that mystical half that lies waiting, it is like finding a lost love. You have come home — home to yourself, finding completeness in your own life. Some people have more natural ability to make this bridge than others; however, I truly believe that it can be learned by all of us. It is not a private skill, only used by a few. People with developed mystical awareness have the power and strength to work longer and to be happier and more productive than people who ignore their inner being. They do not suffer the agony of separateness that can make life so unbearable at times, because they have healed that separateness within themselves. Ordinary people have only one half of themselves functioning at any time; mystics function with their whole being.

Mystical practice is never an escape; it is an entry into a complete life in your self. We cannot depend on someone or something to "do it for us" and remain happy. "Someone" or "something" is always an unknown product, transient and unreliable. It is so much better to develop what you need for your life, your success, and happiness within yourself. Once it is operating properly and freely, it never leaves you. I must admit that it takes some work, but Americans are used to work. And besides, why not put that American industriousness into something that lasts?

Click on this link - Mystical Experiences - to go directly to a selection of students' letters describing their experiences. Beside each experience, I have sometimes made some notes about some terms or ideas that may not be familiar to you. I will be sharing new experiences on this site every so often, and I hope you enjoy sharing them with me.

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